Why You Shouldn't Panic if Your Vehicle's Check Engine Light Engages

Posted on: 8 June 2017

When any of your vehicle's dashboard warning lights engage, you don't want to ignore this; those lights are connected to sensors that are going to alert you to problems under the hood long before you notice needed repairs. Fixing those problems as soon as possible can mean saving you money and also avoiding a potential breakdown.

If you do tend to ignore those lights because you're afraid of what they might mean, note that you shouldn't panic when one engages, including the check engine light; this may not mean that the engine itself actually needs work. Consider a few other issues that could engage that light, so you know what you might be facing by way of repair bills.


The car's exhaust system removes fumes and emissions so that the engine can maintain proper combustion; when oxygen builds up in the engine, this can interfere with combustion, and this affects the fuel economy and performance of the engine. If there is any blockage in the exhaust, or a leak that doesn't allow the tailpipe to vent those fumes properly so that they begin to back up into the engine, this can engage the check engine light. Your vehicle may need a new tailpipe or catalytic converter, which are not typically major repairs and both of which are usually very affordable.

Fuel pump

The fuel pump, as the name implies, pumps fuel from the gas tank to the engine. When the fuel pump begins to falter, the engine may not get enough petrol to maintain combustion; you may need to apply more pressure to the gas pedal to force more fuel to the engine, and the engine may sputter or race. When the engine struggles from lack of consistent fuel, the check engine light may engage. Replacing the fuel pump is not necessarily costly but it should be done as needed, to ensure it doesn't outright fail.

Battery and electrical

Your car's dashboard should have a battery light that engages when the battery is close to dead, or when the alternator is failing; however, before they get to that point, the check engine light might engage. If the battery is getting low, electrical systems in the car may be receiving intermittent power. This flow of power may not be low enough to engage the battery light on the dashboard, but when electrical parts under the hood begin to fail, the check engine light may engage. Your car may need a new battery, new wiring to the battery, or a simple cleaning of the terminals so that the battery cables get full power for those electrical parts.


Automotive Action: A Guide

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